Prey is one of those late-nineties games that looked fantastic in all its previews and pre-release screenshots, but somehow fell into a black hole and only emerged nearly a decade later. Like Duke Nukem Forever, that other more-than-a-decade-in-development 3D Realms title, it could have been a great product if only its development team had managed to ship something in the 1998-1999 timeframe.
These screenshots, together with the Infinite MHz preview from E3 1998, show a game that was making very significant leaps in both technology and design compared to the popular shooters of the time. It had a custom 3D engine based on portal technology (nearly a decade before Portal), an ambitious world design and some of the brightest people in the industry behind it. There was every reason to believe Prey was going to be a landmark entry into the genre, and that it was coming soon.
I like to imagine that if Prey had been released and lived up to expectations back then, it would have been a highly original and disruptive hit in a field dominated by the Quake and Unreal games. As it stands, Prey was put on hiatus for several years until it was picked up again in the early 2000’s by Human Head Studios, using the id Tech 4 (or Doom 3) engine.
Prey was finally released in 2006 and did well commercially, although it didn’t cause any big waves in the genre. But still we can look at the old screenshots, read the old previews, and imagine the brilliant shooter that could have landed in our CD-ROM trays sometime in 1999, but never did.